Functional Anatomy: Why is it Important for Yoga Teachers?

If you have looked up yoga teacher training courses, you would have noticed every good course includes a module on anatomy and physiology. You might have wondered why it is important for yoga teachers and how in-depth your knowledge should be. Today, students are looking for yoga classes where they can get a holistic understanding of each posture’s benefits. It’s no longer just about knowing that an asana is strengthening the back or opening up the hips. Many are interested in which muscles are used, what a posture should feel like, how does it impact the core, the effect on the connective tissues, what happens in the digestive system, how diet and lifestyle affect energy and stamina, etc. That’s where anatomy for yoga teachers comes in. A good yoga teacher will take the time to understand the human body from a scientific perspective. 

Most yoga anatomy courses consist of modules based on comparative anatomy (how and why we move as humans), and address what yoga postures look like, and their standard alignment. This is a great place for teachers to start. However, what will set you apart is going beyond the benefits, structure and function. Sampoorna Yoga’s courses offer -besides the study of basic human anatomy- a functional approach, and take a step further to help you understand the mechanics of postures and feeling while in them, what is appropriate, or too much or too little, its subsequent benefits, the targeted areas, why we move the way we move, and more. 

Six reasons to learn functional anatomy for yogis

  1. To explain the effectiveness of yoga postures: Studying yoga anatomy from a functional approach equips you, as a teacher, to explain beyond the benefits of a posture on bones, muscles, joints, organs and systems, but to understand what it feels like to be in each particular pose. It gives you a deeper understanding of the importance of individual alignments and posture variations. You will be equipped to answer questions like ‘how does this posture promote healthy joints?’, or, ‘how does that posture encourage better sleep and a calmer mind?’ You will be able to give students answers to how yoga postures have a positive benefit on the body and mind from a holistic and scientific perspective. 
  2. Teaching yoga postures in an injury-free manner: Ensuring your students practice yoga asanas in a safe and injury-free manner is one of the most important responsibilities of a teacher. An understanding of functional anatomy will help you be aware of what might happen due to inappropriate alignments, or if a student attempts an advance variation when they are not yet ready. You will be able to guide students towards the right posture for them. Furthermore, some students might come to your class with prior injuries, chronic pain, health problems or during their recovery phase. You will have to understand and monitor such cases closely to ensure yoga supports their condition or their recovery/healing process. Knowledge of functional anatomy will help you deal with contraindications, teaching with props, and variations. Guiding students with proper direction will help prevent injury and recover, if there is such a case. 
  3. To benefit holistically: Yoga’s mental, physical and physiological benefits are multifold. The practice is powerful enough to completely transform a practitioner’s life. However, to experience such a transformation, it is up to teachers to guide students with complete knowledge. When you know the A-to-Z of yoga anatomy, your instructions become clearer and accurate. Progress will become sustained and seamless. Imagine giving your students a holistic understanding of how the respiratory system works during Shallow Breathing vs. Deep Breathing, or explaining to your students how a ‘Full Yogic Breath’ involves the abdomen, diaphragm and lungs. And, taking it a step further to explain how these practices calm and balance the nervous system. 
  4. Guiding students correctly: Giving the right instructions, knowing when to do a posture and when/how to modify it, and what level suits your students is critical for yoga teachers. When you know how the body functions, this knowledge will become easier to grasp and remember. You will understand body types, level and limitations of students. You’ll also know when to tell students to avoid or modify a posture. For example, why is it recommended women avoid inversions during periods? Or, why should practitioners with varicose veins do the Legs Up on The Wall Pose? These are aspects yoga teachers should know and continuously communicate to students. Accordingly, alternative variations should be provided, too. 
  5. To grow your yoga teaching career: Learning yoga anatomy helps grow and expand your career as a teacher. In fact, taking up special courses in yoga anatomy will even allow you to interact (and sometimes consult) with doctors, physiotherapists, and wellness and fitness centers, among others. You can even explore opportunities in teaching anatomy, and speaking at yoga conferences. As it is with any field, it will require experience but over time, your career and teaching prospects will expand. 
  6. Improves your confidence and credibility: Once you have this knowledge and start teaching it, your confidence will grow. If you choose to take up specific anatomy courses, your expertise in the subject matter will continue to improve. You will garner more students who will look to you to learn and progress in a healthy, sustained way. Ultimately, this will add to your credibility, and your recognition as a seasoned teacher will improve. 

Read this article for more on ‘How can yoga teachers benefit from knowing functional anatomy’.

While yoga stems from ancient knowledge and practices of sages centuries ago, modern techniques and applications are also relevant. As yoga teachers, continuously learning and growing along with the interest and needs of students will contribute towards your career. Taking the time to learn and understand functional anatomy will benefit you and your students, ensuring a safe and healthy practice.

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about the functional anatomy and discover how it can make you a better yoga teacher. At Sampoorna Yoga Online Academy, you will find specialized help focusing on your well-being and expanding your knowledge of yoga, no matter where you are.